Record Album Sleeve, "Persuasive Percussion", 1959. Josef Albers. Gift of Mathew Weaver in honor of Lenora J. and Robert J. Weaver. 2009-44-1-a/d.

Albers's album cover

Persuasive Percussion is an album cover from a set of seven that Josef Albers designed for Command Records. It presents regular columns of dots with the top-most released from the rigid grid below to hover randomly in space, conveying syncopation, rhythm and tone.

Albers, principally associated with the Dessau Bauhaus prior to teaching at Black Mountain College, was instrumental in developing the Department of Design at Yale University. His investigation of color theory is best known from his series of paintings and prints, Homage to the Square (begun in 1949), and his 1963 publication, Interaction of Color, which influenced color field painting and conceptual artists in the 1960s.

Command Records was founded in 1959 by Enoch Light, a classically trained violinist active as a band leader and recording entrepreneur after World War II. Bringing a high degree of sophistication to the marketing of stereo recordings, Light selected and arranged musical compositions, taking advantage of the right left channelization of the new stereo equipment. To match the avant-garde nature of the musical compositions, Light asked Albers to produce designs that would evoke the syncopated spirit of the music and suggest the avant-garde nature of the music scene. Each cover is a metaphorical equivalent of the tempos and rhythms of the instruments featured on the tracks, including marimbas, guitars, trap sets, and bongos. Familiar compositions by Sammy Fain, George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, and others are adapted for a variety of percussion instruments recorded and edited specifically for high fidelity stereo equipment.

Additionally, this album showcases the innovative gate fold cover which was first introduced by Light for Command Records, allowing for expanded liner notes and technical commentary pertaining to the production of the stereo recordings.

The critic Martin Filler has commented on how Gestalt perception influenced Albers' designs for the Command Records album covers, produced between 1959 and 1961. By equating the sounds of the percussion instruments to abstract elements of varying size (dots, squares, lines), Albers is able to convey graphically the effect of listening to the percussion arrangements. Albers was known to have been interested in Gestalt theory as early as 1930-31 when he attended lectures on the subject delivered by Count Karlfried von Dürckheim at the University of Leipzig. Other colleagues of Albers at the Bauhaus, including Kandinsky and Klee, were keenly interested in the implications of Gestalt theory on modern painting.

Museum Number: 
2009-44-1-a/d